Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador to Denmark in a row about cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by a best-selling newspaper.
A Saudi government spokesman said the ambassador had been recalled for talks following Denmark’s failure to deal with the insults to the Prophet.
Some of the cartoons in Jyllands-Posten last September depicted him as a stereotype of an Islamic terrorist.
The paper said it was testing the boundaries of expression about Islam.
It said at the time that both the paper and the cartoonist had received threats.
Ambassadors from several Muslim countries complained to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who had earlier said he could not tell papers what to print, or not to.
Islam bans any depiction of Muhammad or Allah.
On Thursday, the Saudi government said it had recalled its ambassador “for consultations in light of the Danish government’s lack of attention to insulting the Prophet Muhammad by its newspapers”.
Danish food producers Arla Foods said the anger sparked by the cartoons had prompted a boycott of its dairy products in Saudi Arabia.
Arla director Finn Hansen said there had been calls for boycotting Danish products in Friday prayers and on Saudi television and in newspapers.
“We are certainly afraid this will spread across Saudi Arabia and affect our business,” he told Reuters news agency.
There were street protests both in Denmark and in Muslim countries following the publication of the cartoons.
Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the Jordanian parliament’s call yesterday for the punishment of the cartoonist who drew 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten on 30 September and were reprinted in the Norwegian publication Magazinet on 10 January.
“Islam forbids any representation of the Prophet and we realize that these cartoons may upset some people, but it is not acceptable for the parliament of a supposedly democratic country to call for the cartoonists to be punished,” the press freedom organisation said.
“Those who so desire may bring a complaint against the newspaper, but politicians should under no circumstances should call for direct reprisals against journalists,” Reporters Without Borders continued. “The cartoonists have already received death threats and these new statements put them in further danger.”
In a statement yesterday, the Jordanian parliament said the cartoons “constitute a cowardly and reprehensible crime” and urged the Norwegian and Danish authorities “to express their condemnation and disapproval of this hateful crime and to punish the perpetrators and instigators.”
It also called on “parliaments, governments and civil society organisations in the Muslim world to take a firm position on this evil, which strikes at the sentiments of the Arabo-Muslim nation.”
Jyllands-Posten editor Carsten Juste received several death threats after he published the cartoons last September and hired bodyguards to protect his journalists. The two threatened cartoonists were forced to go into hiding. Similar threats have been made against Magazinet since it republished them two weeks ago.
Leading Muslim clerics living in Denmark called the cartoons an insult to Islam and its Prophet and on 6 October asked Jyllands-Posten for a formal apology. Juste refused, saying “we live in a democracy where satire and caricature are generally well accepted and where religion should not pose any limits on this.” Around 5,000 Muslims protested on the streets of Copenhagen on 14 October against the “provocative” and “arrogant” cartoons.
A total of 11 ambassadors from Muslim countries so far have requested an interview with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to discuss the issue, but he continues to refuse to receive them, stressing his country’s commitment to press freedom. In his New Year’s message, he described freedom of expression as “vital,” as “absolute” and as “non-negotiable.” But he also condemned “any form of expression, action or signs that tended to demonize a group of people on the basis of their religion.”
An agreement was reached between Denmark and the Arab League on 5 January not to pursue the controversy any further